I am a huge bookworm and so picking a favorite book, or even five favorite books, is really hard for me. But I decided on these one because I have read them all more than once and all have all had significant impact of the way I look at the world. I also didn’t realize until I made this list that all but one of my favorites were written by women!
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Pearl Buck was an American woman who grew up (and lived most of her life) in China because her parents were Christian Missionaries. She was an incredible feminist writer and in many of her books she addresses important women’s issues, but she does it from an Asian woman’s perspective. It is really incredible to see how even though culture, language, and background may differ women and their struggles are the same all over the world.
The first time I read this book I was very tempted to throw it across the room and scream because the main character, a man named Wang-lung, is so infuriating. But I didn’t fling it, which I am sure the book was grateful for, and it has by far become my favorite book because the story and its message is so powerful.
I am not going to give the story away, but in a nutshell here is what the story the message is (according to me). When the earth suffers, women suffer and when women suffer, the earth suffers. Through her character O-lan, Buck makes the argument that all of man's (in the story Wang-lung's) increase and prosperity comes because of his reliance on the "good earth", which refers not only to his land but also to his good woman. Without his woman he would have had none of the prosperity he enjoys! The tragedy is that he doesn't appreciate what he has and the woman suffers. My heart just aches for O-lan and she reminds me that so many woman in the world live similar lives. So many women bring forth fruit, raise it and cultivate it, in silence. They are trampled on, destroyed, and unappreciated. Life would cease to exist without the earth, just as life would cease to exist without women.
I think about this book all the time, which I guess is why it is my favorite.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The first time I picked up this book I was totally blown away by it. I was expecting it to be a scary horror story, like I had seen it portrayed in the movies, but it was definitely not. I was really surprised to discover that it is a powerful and poignant treatise about the sanctity of human life and our responsibility towards all life-- no matter how it was born or how it looks. I could really go on all day about this book, about how the real monster in the book is Dr. Frankenstein because of his prejudices and his unwillingness to be a father to the “child” he created, how the monster is pure and trusting at first but how the world destroys it and slowly eats away at his self-worth and the consequences that come of it. And mostly, how we as a society have a responsibility to create, protect, and nurture the life we create.
Oh man, I really love this book. I think I might just go re-read it.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
This was another book that totally surprised me. I don’t know why but for some reason I had it in my mind that this book was going to be b-o-r-i-n-g. I guessed I just assumed that any book that could, as Abraham Lincoln said “start” the Civil War, probably wasn’t going to be a fun read. I was wrong, way wrong. The story is so engaging and the characters are awesome. I don’t think there could be a worse villain than Simon LeGree and knowing that he was based on real people, and that what much of the slaves suffered really happened, just makes it even more gut wrenching. Stowe does a brilliant job of looking at the slave question from every possible angle. I can see why this book had the impact it had, because no matter what your political opinion this book found a way to open your eyes and heart to the horrors of slavery. There are SO many social topics today that need another Harriet Beecher Stowe to champion their cause. Her book is honestly… brilliant.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
I have to admit that the first time I ever tried reading this book I hated it. I don’t know why. But when I picked it up again, this time as a mother, I LOVED it. Every time I read it it makes me laugh and giggle. It is really satirical and full of deep levels of meaning, which I didn’t pick up when I was younger. He does such a good job of capturing the essence and spirit of childhood and, as a mother, it helps me remember what it was like to live in “Neverland” and reminds me to enjoy my children more. Every time I start to get frustrated with them I just have to remember that before I know it they will leave “Neverland” and grow up way too fast… except for Peter (who still has all his baby teeth). I have been reading this to Asher and Rose before bedtime the last few months and I love it that they can enjoy the story (they are a bit obsessed with fairies and pirates) and that I get to feast on the "not so hidden” message to parents. This is one that I could, and have, read over and over again.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boon
This is a true story of two Dutch women who were caught hiding Jews in their home during WWII and sent to a concentration camp. The story of their survival is so powerful and so full of miracles. There are two parts that I think about all the time. The first is how the women were able to smuggle in a small copy of the Bible (even though they were stripped searched) and how they would get a group of women together every night to read from it. They were living in flea infested bunks and when they first got there Betsy (her sister) made Corrie thank God for everything, even the fleas. Corrie refused to thank God for the fleas but later she found out that the reason the guards never bothered them during their Bible reading time was because of the fleas. When ever I am hard pressed to see my blessings I just think of those fleas!
I was also so touched by the account Corrie gives, after the war was over, of meeting one of the Nazi guards who tormented her. The guard had become a Christan and wanted to ask for her forgiveness. She wasn’t sure she could give it and so she prayed that God would help her. She said that it was a miracle but she accepted the guards forgiveness and from that moment on she felt peace enter her heart and heal her. I love this part because I once met a woman who was a survivor of the concentration camps and was so shocked at how bitter and angry she was. She had never forgiven her captors and she was the most unhappy person I have ever met. It was such a powerful realization to me of how powerful forgiveness is. When we refuse to forgive, even for horrific things, we kill a part of our souls.
Like I said these are just some of my favorite fiction books. There are many others that I love and some of the ones that were vying for spots on my list were “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Vern, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and “Hannah Coulter” by Wendell Berry.
I am always looking for new favorite books and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear what your favorite books are. But you have to limit them to five or under so that I know that they are good enough to have made the cut!
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